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Rethink Robotics Upgrades Baxter to 2.0 Software

When we visited Rethink Robotics last year, Mitch Rosenberg, Rethink’s vice president for marketing and product management, told us that "the day you buy the robot is the day that it’ll perform the least well. Over time, your investment will become more and more valuable because the software will become more and more valuable." With the release of Baxter's 2.0 software, value has been added.

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Boston Dynamics Gets $10 Million from DARPA for New Stealthy, Bulletproof LS3

You'd think that Boston Dynamics would be all kinds of busy building (and supporting) a small army of Atlas robots for the DARPA Robotics Challenge. But, it looks like they've somehow managed to find the time to continue working on all of their other systems as well, like BigDog's big brother, LS3. Last week, DARPA committed to investing an extra $10 million towards a more robust and (eventually) deployable robot.

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Soldiers Can Get Emotionally Attached to Robots, and That May Not Be a Good Thing

Above: The remains of Packbot #129, killed in the line of duty. Now in iRobot's corporate museum.

Humans developing emotional attachments to robots is well known, and well documented. Heck, we love every single robot we've ever met. Things get more complicated, however, when robot interaction is a job and not a hobby, and especially when the robots that you're working with are (to some extent) designed specifically to get blown to smithereens.

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European Space Agency Wants to Send Robot Snakes to Mars

The Mars rovers are designed for off-roading, mostly because the entirety of Mars is off-road. But, they're driven very conservatively, since if they ever do get stuck, well... Yeah, that's kind of the end of them. Problem is, it's hard to explore (or take samples) when you can't get into all of those interesting nooks and crannies, and one solution that the European Space Agency is exploring is to just send two robots: a traditional rover, and a deployable tethered snake.

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[UPDATED] UAV Provides Colorado Flooding Assistance Until FEMA Freaks Out

UPDATE: See below.

There's been some terrible, terrible flooding going on in Colorado. Rain is still falling, making it difficult (or impossible) for airplanes and helicopters to get in and out of the area. Drones can fly, though, and while they're not able to pick up people or drop off supplies, they are able to make damage assessment maps to help relief agencies coordinate their efforts. Or at least, they were, until the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) showed up and grounded them.

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Video Friday: Quadrotor Tour Guides, Laser Hexapods, and Robots vs. Gymnasts

What is it about lasers that makes anything to bolt them on to like ten thousand times cooler, even if they don't actually do anything? Maybe it's the fact that even though lasers have been around for half a century, they're still one of the most inherently futuristic things I can think of. And it's amazing that you can buy them for next to nothing on eBay. We can only hope that 50 years from now, the same thing will happen to robots: futuristic awesomeness for cheap. While we wait, let's watch some videos.

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Robots Learning Better Ways to Ask Clueless Humans for Help

A lot of the time, robots seem pretty dumb to us humans. It's not entirely a surprise, then, that a lot of the time, humans apparently seem pretty dumb to robots. If you're a robot, it turns out to be surprisingly difficult to get a human to assist you with tasks, so researchers at MIT are teaching robots to politely ask for very specific kinds of help.

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DIY Robots Make Brute-Force Security Hacks Possible

Many common types of software security systems only function because they assume that nobody has the time, interest, or energy to use brute force approaches to crack them. Take your phone, for example: it (probably) has a four digit number to unlock it. A human would likely not bother to try out all 10,000 combinations since it would be super boring, but robots don't get bored, so this sort of security doesn't dissuade them.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) often works the same way: by making it time consuming for people to copy things, the idea is that people just won't copy things. And it works. The two key words there, though, are "time consuming" and "people," and if you change "people" to "robots," time consuming ceases to be a factor. And so does the DRM, as this creative little LEGO robot shows.

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IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
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